Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Vineyard

Stagecoach Vineyard

A Different Take on Napa Valley Wine

There are the vineyards that blanket the floor of Napa Valley and decorate its hillsides, and then there’s Stagecoach.

As Freemark Abbey’s Winemaker Emeritus Ted Edwards expressed it in an interview a couple of years ago, Stagecoach Vineyard, a stunning, sweeping estate high up in the Atlas Peak District, “is much more dramatic than a lot of the stuff that you see around here” on the valley floor.

The relatively short—but decidedly steep and winding—drive from the outskirts of Napa up to this expansive piece of property on Atlas Peak takes less than 30 minutes. But once you pull through the driveway’s metal gates and pass the antique Stagecoach on display, you realize you’re in another world—or at least in another part of Napa Valley, entirely.

Merlot: a Napa Valley Wine Story

The Napa Valley Wine produced from Stagecoach fruit can hardly be described as “Napa Valley” at all, for the completely different surroundings. Or a different way of looking at it: the chaparral-and-boulder-studded landscape appears, incongruously, to be manicured and wild all at once, something few visitors would say about the pristine vineyard in the valley below.

Many of the wines that come from Stagecoach do, of course, smell and taste like Napa Valley, so perhaps the differences are largely those of topography.

Cabernet Sauvignon is, unsurprisingly, the marquee vine planted across the vineyard’s 600-plus acres. But Rhone and Italian grape varieties thrive in Stagecoach, as do Cabernet’s partner varieties like Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
For Freemark Abbey, the story begins with Merlot.

The Essence of Merlot at a St. Helena Winery

Before Ted and his viticultural team at Freemark Abbey caught wind of the Merlot blocks in Stagecoach Vineyard, and even before the movie Sideways nearly sank the Merlot ship forever in 2004, the noble grape of Bordeaux’s Right Bank had left its mark on the Freemark portfolio.

Merlot has enjoyed a 30-year consecutive run as a varietal bottling at the St. Helena winery, and was produced in the 1975 and ’85 vintages as a one-off release. But the key to the brand-new Stagecoach Merlot program, initiated by Ted in the outstanding 2013 vintage, is the M4 Block, a much smaller section of vines buried in the heart of the vineyard.
Ted had been blending M4 fruit into Freemark’s regular Cabernet Sauvignon bottling for a few vintages when he noted its tendency to make “standalone and distinctive wine,” as he describes it.

Freemark Abbey Cabernet collectors and visitors will likely concur. Stagecoach Vineyard Merlot is a standalone red wine.



Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Stagecoach Vineyard Merlot